Despite the Pandemic, These Retailers Are Opening Stores

As many fashion and footwear players are closing up shop, a number of retailers are bucking the trend and opening new doors.

Some nationwide chains — such as the recently bankrupted JCPenney, fast-fashion giant H&M and more recently Frye — have collectively announced hundreds of closures in hopes of staying afloat as the COVID-19 outbreak pummels businesses. According to retail data firm Coresight Research, as many as 20,000 to 25,000 stores in the United States could shutter for good this year.

However, companies like Burlington Stores and Gap are expanding their brick-and-mortar presence even though the pandemic has pushed even more consumers online and reduced foot traffic to physical locations. Here, FN rounds up the companies that have announced store openings in recent months.

BJ’s Wholesale

Before the end of the fiscal year, the membership-only warehouse chain intends to open two new clubs in New York. It also plans to launch up to six locations across the country next year.

“Accelerating our rate of new club openings has long been a strategic priority, and we spent a lot of time over the course of the last several years making sure we have the model right,” president and CEO Lee Delaney said in the company’s second-quarter earnings call in mid-August. “[We] decided that we would more aggressively look for opportunities to fill the pipeline, and we’ve been working on it for a while. Our hope is that next year we’ll be able to open significantly more [stores] than we have in the past.”

During the second quarter, the retailer reported that an “avalanche of members” joined its base, bringing the total number of BJ’s consumers to upwards of 6 million. It currently operates 219 clubs and 148 BJ’s Gas units.

Burlington Stores

The off-price chain announced in a recent conference call with analysts that it opened three new locations during the second quarter, bringing its total store count to 739 outposts.

What’s more, it intends to launch 37 new brick-and-mortar chains in the third quarter, along with seven expected closings or relocations. For the fiscal year, it plan to debut 62 stores and either shut down or move 26 outposts — translating to a net 36 new units expected to be opened through 2020.

“We believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to create an even stronger consumer need and desire for value, and it’s also likely to increase the number and the pace of competitive store closures,” CEO Michael O’Sullivan said in the late August call. “So if both of those things turn out to happen, then pandemic could actually increase the longer-term market share opportunity for off-price.”

As previously discussed in its first-quarter call, Burlington has shifted the openings of eight stores from the spring to the fall, while 16 stores slated to open in the fall were pushed back to the spring of 2021. However, in the second quarter, the company added two additional stores slated to open in the fall to the spring 2021 openings list “due to site availability issues outside of our control.”

Dick’s Sporting Goods

Throughout August, the athletic and outdoor retailer launched 11 stores — four of its namesake chains, one combination Dick’s and Golf Galaxy location, five Dick’s Sporting Goods Warehouse Sale outposts and one Overtime by Dick’s Sporting Goods — in nine states.

Two Dick’s Sporting Goods stores had their ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Massachusetts, while another couple outposts debuted in New Jersey and Texas. A Dick’s Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy unit also opened up in Georgia. What’s more, new clearance and outlet locations popped up in Illinois, Colorado, Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The one Overtime by Dick’s Sporting Goods store, which has an assortment of apparel, footwear and equipment at up to 90% off, sprung up in Arizona.

Following these store openings, the retail chain will have 729 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores, 96 Golf Galaxy outposts, 10 Warehouse Sale locations and four Overtime by Dick’s Sporting Goods units across 47 states in the country. With the new stores, the company expects to hire roughly 300 full-time, part-time and temporary workers.

Dr. Martens

The English footwear brand is forging ahead with its physical store expansion. After opening 16 stores — including five in the U.S. market — during the last fiscal year, Dr. Martens moved forward with two big U.S. debuts amid the pandemic: one in Houston and another in Miami.

“We feel very confident about North America generally,” CEO Kenny Wilson told FN in mid-August. “We still believe there’s opportunity for store expansion, and we’re still significantly under-penetrated.”

In its financial results for the year ended March 31, the company reported that direct-to-consumer still fuels its business and momentum continues to build online. Total revenues shot up 48% to 672.2 million pounds, while underlying EBITDA rose by 93% to 164.4 million pounds and operating profits more than doubled. While the results reflect the selling period before the pandemic took hold in the U.S. and Europe, the executive chief shared that he was confident the brand’s strategy would help it weather the coronavirus storm.

Gap (Old Navy, Athleta)

As part of its its previously announced “fleet optimization” strategy, Gap added that it expects to close 225 of its namesake outposts as well as Banana Republic stores around the world this year, with additional closures expected in 2021. However, the chain — which has 3,814 locations across 42 countries, of which 3,215 are company-operated — sees opportunities in expanding its Old Navy and Athleta banners.

“They’re being very purposeful in that growth. Old Navy continues to believe that they are under-penetrated compared to their competitive set in the smaller markets,” EVP and CFO Katrina O’Connell said in a conference call with analysts in late August. “We’ll be prudent about watching that post-COVID, but we still think there’s an opportunity to gain share there.”

She added, “And Athleta, still at only 50% brand awareness and under-penetrated in their store fleet, still has an opportunity to open some stores here and potentially elsewhere.”

For the three months ended Aug. 1, the retail group posted a loss of 17 cents per share and an 18% drop in revenues to $3.28 billion. Both figures, however, were still better than analysts’ forecasts of a loss of 41 cents and revenues of $2.91 billion.

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